Andrew Wiggins officially announced his decision to enter this year’s NBA Draft this week. Now that his collegiate career is over, we take a look at his draft stock and NBA players he may draw comparisons to at the next level.
Wiggins received plenty of hype out of high school, being heralded by some outlets as the “Next LeBron James.” With the amount of attention he received, fans may have soon been disappointed when they realized the LeBron comparisons were overly enthusiastic. It’s probably tough to be compared to the best basketball player in the world before you turn 19 years old.
Now looking at a broader perspective, Wiggins actually had a stellar freshman campaign. He averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, shooting 45 percent from the field and 34 percent from three, as the young Kansas squad won its tenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
He showed flashes of dominance and the capability of being the top selection in this year’s draft, On March 8th, Wiggins exploded for 41 points, eight rebounds, five steals, and four blocks against West Virginia. The following game, he had 30 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals in an overtime win against Oklahoma State.
The 6-foot-8 small forward from Thornhill, Ontario has an insane amount of athleticism that allows him to finish well above the rim in transition. He’s solid driving to the basket with his right hand but sometimes struggled finishing on lay-ups this season. He utilizes an effective spin move to lose defenders. Wiggins is a decent shooter, but he can still improve in that area. His biggest strength, outside of his physical makeup, comes on the defensive end of the floor where he uses his athleticism and length to frustrate opponents. This is sometimes an overlooked aspect of Wiggins’ game.
What people may remember the most; however, was his final collegiate performance in an early loss to Stanford. Wiggins only had four points and four rebounds while shooting 1-of-6 from the floor. It certainly didn’t scream NBA All-Star, but there are plenty of players in the NBA right now who are comparable to Wiggins.
The highest profile player that Wiggins could eventually resemble is Indiana’s Paul George. George spent two seasons at Fresno State where his assertiveness was questioned as well. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the Western Athletic Conference during his sophomore season against competition far inferior to what Wiggins faced. His team finished 15-18 and George was even held scoreless in a loss late in the season to San Jose State. He shot 42 percent from the field and 35 percent from three, eerily similar numbers to Wiggins. Although Wiggins had occasions where he struggled, it was against better teams and he was never held scoreless.
George went on to become the 10th pick in the 2010 draft, but if that was redrafted at this moment, he’d certainly be selected as the top overall pick. The All-Star is now averaging 21.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his fourth NBA season as the Pacers hold the best record in the Eastern Conference. He’s shooting 36 percent from deep, which isn’t stellar, but is respectable enough to keep the defense honest. If Wiggins reaches his ceiling, he could become a George type of player.
Another possible player who Wiggins could resemble is Rudy Gay. Gay, a 6-foot-8 small forward playing for the Sacramento Kings, averaged 15.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in his sophomore year at Connecticut. He shot 46 percent from the field but only 32 percent from deep before being drafted as the eighth overall pick. Now in his eighth NBA season, Gay is averaging 20 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 32 percent from three. His team did reach the Elite Eight, but fell to 11th seeded George Mason to end the year.
Perhaps Wiggins’ “floor” as a prospect is a Luol Deng type, who is still one of the top small forwards in the NBA. Deng only spent one season at Duke where he averaged 15.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep. He was the seventh overall pick in 2004 and is now in his 10th NBA season. Deng was on the All-Defensive 2nd Team last season and is currently averaging 16.5 points and six rebounds per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Deng was key on multiple Chicago Bulls teams that were playoff threats. If Wiggins ultimately becomes this type of glue guy, who was also a two-time NBA All-Star, he’s certainly worthy of consideration for the number one pick.
An interesting fact is that all three NBA players mentioned in this article are currently averaging more points per game this season in the NBA than they did in their final collegiate season. Wiggins may struggle in his first season, but should still be expected to contribute immediately. In their rookie seasons, George averaged 7.8 points per game, Gay averaged 10.8 points, and Deng averaged 11.7 points. Fans shouldn’t expect Wiggins to suddenly become a superstar upon his entrance, but with time, he has a chance to be special. With his upside, it will be tough for a team to pass on Wiggins, especially the team holding the number one pick.
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